Better late than never

CLEMSON - Until Wednesday, the first spring practice of the year, Brent Venables hadn't seen Mackensie Alexander take a single rep at Clemson.

It was during a skills and drills workout last summer when Alexander suffered a groin injury that forced him to redshirt in 2013.

So far, two practices into the spring, Alexander has been a 100 percent, full-go with nothing holding him back. Venables, along with every red blooded Clemson fan, s excited.

Very excited.

"It's better late than never, long time coming," Venables said. "He's shown some really good things. He's shown some rust. It's fun to see him out there competing.

"But he's talented, probably the best talent that he has is he's not afraid to work and compete. He has the maturity -- for a young guy -- to put the bad plays behind him and go to the next play. A lot of young guys -- that kind of stunts their growth. He has shown a toughness to him, a good sign of maturity."

Robert Smith, who's widely respected on the team for his work ethic, is impressed by the want-to he's seen from Alexander.

"Great competitor, works hard each and every day," Smith said. "If I had to say there's one person working their butt off just as much as me, it would be Mackensie giving me a run for the money."

Alexander arrived to Clemson with more fanfare than any other cornerback that's been signed by Dabo Swinney, so those words have to be music to the ears of the folks who are itching to see him play.

"He's out there, he's always asking questions, he wants to be the best," Smith said. "You can see it in him. The only thing with him is he's just got to be patient and flow into it. He wants it instantly. He wants it now. I feel like he's going to get there, as long as he keeps working."

Also at the corners

Alexander isn't the only freshman competing for a spot in this fall's cornerback rotation: Marcus Edmond, Adrian Baker and Ryan Carter all redshirted last season. Plus, sophomore Cordrea Tankersley played a handful of snaps.

There aren't any juniors, but there are two seniors.

"You've got a guy like Garry Peters that has started some games, has played quite a bit. Martin Jenkins isn't out here this spring. End of last spring, we really liked where he was at, so those are two guys that have played quite a bit for us, won a lot of games," Venables said.

That group from the class of 2013 will be counted on heavily this season.

"Have a good group of young guys that have good football intelligence that have good range and can run, do a variety of things," Venables said. "I love the competition that's taking place out there. Every play is graded -- a lot of competition there. Those guys are hungry and focused, very humble. It's a pleasant group of guys to choose from."

Tony's turn

As long as he stays healthy and Spencer Shuey isn't granted another year of eligibility, Tony Steward will be the starting weak-side linebacker for Clemson in 2014.

"He's been a big part of our success the last two years," Venables said. "He's been able to step in and play at a high level when he's had those opportunities, been an outstanding player at the field position.

"He's been behind an outstanding player this last year, our co-defensive MVP, so it's not like he's been playing behind chopped liver. He's been ready. I know Tony will take full advantage of it." Top Stories